RAKES IN MIL­LIONS FOR CON­SUMERS

Are you un­happy with your credit provider? Have you been given more debt than you can af­ford to pay back? Help is at hand, and it’s just an SMS away

CityPress - - Tenders - AN­GELIQUE RUZICKA busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Ac­cord­ing to the Credit Om­buds­man’s 2016 an­nual re­port, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has clawed back more than R10.7 mil­lion (an in­crease of 40.2%) to re­turn to con­sumers’ pock­ets. This is an achieve­ment that the new Credit Ombud, Nicky Lala-Mo­han, is most proud of. “This amount is cal­cu­lated by adding all the amounts where con­sumers had over­paid, or where we found some breach of the law that en­ti­tled the con­sumer to a re­fund or re­cal­cu­la­tion of their amounts owed. Most of the amounts are rel­a­tively small, which makes the to­tal amount that much more re­mark­able,” he said.

The an­nual re­port also showed that there was a sub­stan­tial in­crease in the calls fielded by its call cen­tre – 32 095 to be ex­act, which is an in­crease of 32.35%. The to­tal com­plaints and en­quiries recorded rose by 16.5% to 14 343 for the pe­riod, while dis­putes opened for in­ves­ti­ga­tion amounted to 4 123 for the year, a small de­crease of 8.8% com­pared with 2015. The ombud closed 4 422 dis­putes, a de­crease of 12.8%.

“The of­fice has not found any par­tic­u­lar fac­tor re­spon­si­ble for the slight drop in com­plaints and can only spec­u­late that some credit providers and the credit bureaus are re­solv­ing con­sumers’ dis­putes more ef­fec­tively, so there is no need to es­ca­late the mat­ter to our of­fice,” said Lala-Mo­han.

The most com­mon non-bank credit cases that were dis­puted in­cluded con­sumers’ in­cor­rect state­ments of ac­count, emol­u­ment at­tach­ment or­ders, fraud cases and al­leged reck­less lend­ing cases.

Many cases re­sulted in bal­ances be­ing writ­ten off, re­funds be­ing fa­cil­i­tated or con­sumers be­ing helped to en­ter into pay­ment ar­range­ments. Some of the most com­mon dis­putes re­lat­ing to credit in­for­ma­tion cases in­clude insufficient or in­com­plete credit in­for­ma­tion at the credit bureaus, out­dated credit in­for­ma­tion, as well as credit grantors not sup­ply­ing ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.

The of­fice re­solved 69.4% of the dis­putes in con­sumers’ favour, mean­ing that con­sumers’ com­plaints were mostly fully or par­tially up­held.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the ombud’s SMS num­ber – 44786 – in 2015 has also helped im­pov­er­ished con­sumers. Once an SMS is sent, call cen­tre staff con­tact the con­sumer to dis­cuss their com­plaint or en­quiry.

“One of the main rea­sons for the in­tro­duc­tion of this project was the re­al­i­sa­tion that many of our con­sumers do not even have enough money to buy air­time to con­tact us. It of­ten takes quite some time for a con­sumer to ex­plain the back­ground and facts of a credit dis­pute to us, and that could be costly. If a con­sumer makes use of the SMS mes­sage ser­vice, the of­fice will re­spond by phon­ing the con­sumer, and we save the con­sumer the cost of the call,” said Lala-Mo­han.

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